A bishop in northern Italy has removed a priest who opposed relaxing restrictions on Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried.
The diocese of Mantua, which recently implemented a pastoral ministry offering the possibility of admission to the sacraments for those in adulterous unions, removed the priest from his parish duties allegedly because of his outspoken defense of Church teaching.
Father Angelo Bisi, in charge of the parishes of Motteggiana-Villa Saviola, was removed from Villa Saviola after several years of contention with some parishioners, but the drastic decision came only after Fr. Bisi refused to read Bp. Gianmarco Busca's letter to the faithful presenting the Mantuan directives concerning the divorced and civilly remarried
The directives were inspired by the archbishop of Buenos Aires' guidelines for the application of chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia, which states that adulterers may also be admitted to Holy Communion — contrary to longstanding Church doctrine and discipline. Mantua's new pastoral ministry makes no mention of the fact that extramarital relations are adulterous, nor does it mention the need to repent or the option to remain in continence, as confirmed by number 84 of Pope John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio.
Church Militant contacted the diocese of Mantua for comment. Father Giampaolo Ferri, communications director for the diocese, wrote that Bisi "hasn't been removed from his office as parish priest in Villa Saviola because in reality he was simply the parochial administrator, a role in which he has been replaced according to canon 540, which does not follow the same procedure nor does it require the same motivations as for the removal of parish priests."
Father Bisi has on various occasions publicly expressed disagreement with some of Pope Francis' decisions. In 2015, Fr. Bisi wrote a lengthy reflection on Facebook inviting the pontiff to "think well" when handling the issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics:
Church Doctrine holds and affirms that every sexual relation outside of marriage is a sinful act, and if one civilly remarries another person, someone else besides the sacramental spouse, they remain permanently in sin. This is the reason they can't be absolved, as absolution requires repentance and a change of of state. ... It's a very serious and grave issue. ... If the sacrament of matrimony collapses, everything else collapses with it.
In 2016, he wrote a sharp letter to the Holy Father questioning his proximity to anti-Catholic personalities and asking him to pay a visit to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi:
We are aware that this Pope calls everyone ... aligned with his political ideologies, but he suffers from serious bouts of amnesia when it comes to everyone else. ... Pope Francis telephoned Emma Bonino [former Italian minister of foreign affairs who performed more than 10,000 illegal abortions] when he heard she was ill, he called Eugenio Scalfari [the atheist founder of leftist daily La Repubblica, whose conversations with Pope Francis always raise controversy], he immediately sent Abp. Vincenzo Paglia to see Marco Pannella [the late leader of Italy's Radical Party, an abortion rights champion and overall immoral public figure] when he found out that Pannella's state had deteriorated ... and so on. But unfortunately he has forgotten to give a quick call to those ... who attended Family Day, rallying in Rome for the values of the Christian family founded on the love of Christ. ... [Berlusconi] is about to have a difficult operation. He's not a very good practicing Catholic, but I know this doesn't matter [to Pope Francis]. ... Go and invite Berlusconi to repent and confess.
By October 2018, the tension had reached boiling point, and parishioners from Villa Saviola told media that Fr. Bisi's main problem was that he was "stubborn" and "spoke his mind."
"His homilies start well, but then he tends to exaggerate his own opinions," claimed one parishioner. "He needs to be more diplomatic."
Some of the minor altercations also involved Fr. Bisi arriving late for the celebration of Masses and disagreements in the organization of parish functions. Father Bisi claimed the diocese of Mantua was demanding his resignation:
All they have against me are conjectures. The bishop has been asking me to resign for a while, but I haven't done anything wrong. I really would like to know what I'm being accused of. I want to know who reported me to the bishop, because I'm entitled to a defense and I'll defend myself anywhere, be it in the diocese or in a civil legal setting. ... It's true that once, in church, speaking of family in the Christian sense, formed by a man and a woman, as God has taught, I've expressed my disagreement of civil unions or marriage between people of the same sex. ... Is this the accusation against me? Should I resign because I've expressed my opinion as a citizen, a Christian, a Churchman?
Finally in February, Bp. Busca removed Fr. Bisi from the parish. For now he is still responsible for Motteggiana, but it remains that there exist no grounds for his dismissal. According to secular news outfit Ultimissime Mantova, Fr. Bisi was "lifted from his role for standing up for the truth of the Gospel."
Father Bisi declared that "for a priest to be removed from his role, there must be proof he has committed grave acts, such as theft, any sort of scandal, having a lover. I have not done any of these things."
Canon 1741 establishes the causes for the legitimate removal of a pastor: actions which bring grave detriment of ecclesiastical communion, ineptitude of mind or body, loss of good reputation, grave neglect of parochial duties and poor administration of temporal affairs.
Father Bisi is willing to take it to the Roman Rota if necessary. When asked if he would sign his resignation, he answered, "It goes against my dignity and I'd be endorsing hypocritical accusations, which are actually calumnies. I'm not fighting to keep my place as a parish priest; I'm fighting for Christian values."